"Fruit" Leather

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Want a fruit rollup?

Just foolin'. 

Unless you're willing to agree that the tomato is a fruit, that is--something my sweet husband would never admit--you're out of luck.

Nope, these little babies aren't strawberry, raspberry, or any berry at all. They're portable SALSA.

Tomatoes-jalepeno-lime-cilantro-garlic...leather.

See? From this:


To this:


Sure, it'd make a great April Fool's joke, so by all means try it. 

But it's also darn tasty. Yes, it will catch you off guard at first bite, exactly like the -!?!- a gulp of Sprite gives you when you are expecting water, but the disequilibrium is delightful. I know it's an interesting lunchbox snack and a great tortilla liner, and I'll let you know whether slivers on a salad are as good as I think they're going to be.

Since my dehydrator arrived after Christmas, it's running nearly 24/7. Fruits, mostly. There's an issue with storage of dried vegetables: I only have so much space for quart jars of Things to Use Later. Once I accumulated a pretty stash of soup-ready parsnips, carrots, sauteed leeks, squash, tomatoes,  kale...it was time to move on.

With fruits and leathers having a good way to keep it is no problem. Mostly because there's no storage needed...it never lasts long enough to need anything other than some temporary keep-the-dust-off spot to rest.

Last week we snacked our way through eight apples, six pears and two pineapples, with a very minimal amount of sweetener added.   If I hurry and start the next batch as soon as the trays can be washed, we can almost make the last batch last until the next five trays are ready a few hours later. Leathers are impossible to keep stocked, so I don't try. I just make them when the fancy strikes me and when they're gone, they're gone.

Making Your Own
Drying leathers is an art, not a science, so you just have to resign yourself to fiddling with each batch. I swear the relative humidity and temperature inside the house and even the amount of water each individual fruit happens to have all together make a difference to the finished product. One batch, made precisely like the previous batch, can come out gooey-er or drier.  But unless you're trying to market it or bribe a visiting dignitary with it, who cares?

We eat it all no matter how it comes out of the dehydrator, whether perfect, slightly tacky, or thin and crackly. "The variation is interesting," C remarked one day while he was vigorously yanking a triangle of what can only be called fruit jerky between teeth and fist. (He looked a bit like a dog trying to get a rope toy away from its master, in the cutest possible way, of course.) The point is, it's all good. 

This little variation came to me courtesy of a 4-a.m. burglar alarm hiccup. There's not much point trying to pretend sleep is possible after running a four-person keystone-cop routine in the dark. Lying there afterwards, yearning for the last 80 minutes of my usual night's sleep, it just popped into my mind: try Sweetpea's salsa in the dehydrator.

Once it was light enough to reasonable be up, I googled for a recipe. The web's awash with "how to make fruit leather" recipes, but search for "salsa leather" and you get pictures of purses and shoes...and sofas. (I later found this page with a dried tomato sauce recipe and all kinds of other interesting recipes that start in the dehydrator.) I figured it couldn't be all that different from blending some peaches. It isn't.

While I do fruit leathers straight on the little silicone rings that came with the dehydrator, I was concerned about the strong scent of garlic somehow attaching itself and tainting future sweet leathers. A quick dig through the drawer offered a few possibilities:  parchment paper, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and this new-ish Reynolds parchment-foil stuff. 

I tried the last two. Can you guess which I liked better?

Paper?


Or Plastic?

Not only is the plastic annoying to cut in the donut-shape required for my dehydrator, it just made a melty mess. The salsa tasted fine even if it was in pieces, but I'm not sure I like having it on plastic wrap over heat.

So it's Reynolds Pan Lining Paper for me.

Here's how:
1. Puree your favorite salsa very smooth. If you're making it yourself, you might want to go a little light on garlic and salt, since dehydrating concentrates the flavors.
2. Pour into the leather trays on a dehydrator and cure at 140 degrees until it reaches your favorite consistency. The pictured batch "cooked" a little too long--about 8 hours on a rainy winter day in Louisiana--so you'll just have to check it along the way.

I've read that you can do this in a very slow oven (170 degrees) if you don't have a dehydrator, but the only time I tried it--hoping for ribbons of leather rather than triangles--it showed me that my pan is warped. The puree puddled in the middle and just didn't dry. You might have a better pan, so plop your silicone baking mat in it and spread your puree over it. Whatever comes out, it will taste good even if it's got problem spots.

Whether for an April Fool's trick or a lunchbox treat, it's really good...no foolin'.

p.s. If you're wondering, this is my dehydrator.  I debated whether to buy it because I don't have a whole lot of places to store something so big. I shouldn't have worried. It stays on the counter, running...delicious white noise.

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